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Soaring patent fees: Should CFOs object?

Karen M. Kroll | Feb. 23, 2012
Through the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which became law last September, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was "entrusted with the authority to work with the IP stakeholder community to set our fees through the regulatory process," as this letter from USPTO director David Kappos to the Patent Public Advisor Committee states. The role is a first for the Office, the letter adds.

Through the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which became law last September, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was "entrusted with the authority to work with the IP stakeholder community to set our fees through the regulatory process," as this letter from USPTO director David Kappos to the Patent Public Advisor Committee states. The role is a first for the Office, the letter adds.

Earlier this month, the USPTO published its list of proposed fees. Several principles are guiding the USPTO as they work with the public and those involved in intellectual property in determining appropriate fees. One is the need to move to a more sustainable funding model and avoid disruptions in its operations due to fluctuations in the economy. The other is the need to reduce the backlog of unexamined patent applications.

Among the proposals: The basic filing, search and exam fee for large entities would jump from $1,250 to $1,840 in order to more closely align the rate with the cost of the service. The fee for a notice of appeal would more than double, from $620 to $1,500, again to better reflect costs. While most fees do increase under the proposal, one would drop: the request for prioritized exams would be cut from $4,800 to $4,000, in order to encourage greater participation.

Of course, the proposed fees are just that -- proposed. The USPTO has scheduled several fee hearings; one took place at its headquarters earlier this month, while the other is scheduled for this week (Feb. 23) in Sunnyvale, Calif. In addition, written comments will be accepted through Feb. 29, according to the notice in the Federal Register. "The USPTO looks forward to engaging with the public about our fee proposal and making any necessary modifications to enhance our final product," Kappos said in a statement.

To be sure, no CFO is going to cheer for fee increases. However, a more sustainable funding model should benefit the companies that use the USPTO's services. As Kappos said in his letter to the Patent Public Advisory Committee, the current funding model fluctuates with the economy. When the economy tightened in 2009, the PTO was forced to reduce operations. Given that the Office currently has a backlog of some 650,000 applications, any reduction in operations is means inordinately long delays for applicants. More sustainable funding will allow it to invest in both examiners and updated IT systems, which should mean shorter waits for companies applying for patents or trademarks.

 

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